The Confederate Army Reorganizes
— Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail —
Hamilton House is the oldest surviving house
in Dalton, pre-dating the city's founding. The
brick home and spring house were built about
1840 by John Hamilton and his wife Rachel.
John was a civil engineer with the Western and
Atlantic Railroad. Previously, a Cherokee had a
home on this property. He is said to be buried
nearby on land now covered by the railroad
after being killed during a horse race. In
addition to working for the railroad, Hamilton
ran a large plantation, served as a judge and
was instrumental in the construction of Dalton
Academy in 1851. He died two years later. All
five Hamilton sons would subsequently serve in
the Confederate army, and all five survived the
war. Rachel Hamilton died in 1876, and the
house was later sold. Hamilton House was
purchased by the Whitfield-Murray Historical
Society in 1997.
In late November 1863, the Confederate
"Army of Tennessee," under General Braxton
Bragg, retreated to Dalton following its defeat
at Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga.
Confederate camps during the winter of
1863-64 consisted mainly of wooden huts
throughout the area. Private Frank Roberts of
the 2nd Georgia Sharpshooters recalled,
Our cabins were built of split logs, the cracks
being 'chinked during the severest weather
with red clay, thus making a very
house indeed. An ample chimney was
constructed of sticks 'chinked in the same
manner as the house; and when the fireplace
was piled up with wood and set going, we
had as comfortable quarters as to warmth as
one could wish.
Brigadier General Joseph H. Lewis, commander
of the Kentucky "Orphan Brigade," chose the
Hamilton House for his
headquarters, with his
tent located near the
spring house. Federal
troops controlled Kentucky
throughout the war,
preventing the "orphans"
from visiting their families.
General Bragg resigned
his army's command on
December 2, 1863. His
successor, General Joseph
Johnston began rehabilitating
and reorganizing his
discouraged army. He
restored morale by improving
the food supply and
instituting "home leave."
One well-received reform
reunited the Tennessee
Division and created a
Georgia Division. As a
demonstration of improving conditions and
confidence, following a heavy snowfall, these two
divisions staged "The Great Snowball Fight."
Noses were bloodied and fingers broken as
Tennesseans defeated Georgians in the largest of
several such "battles."
A religious revival also swept through
Confederate camps. Hundreds of soldiers were
baptized, including Lieutenant General John B.
Hood by fellow Lieutenant
General and Episcopal
Bishop Leonidas Polk. A witness to this baptism
stated that Hood "looked happy and as though a
great burden had been lifted."
With springtime weather the fighting resumed.
The Confederate army retreated south from Dalton
on May 12, 1864. The Hamilton's daughter,
Elizabeth, watched the retreat while sitting on a gate
post waving a flag. "For hours I sat there waving
that flag while a long line of weary soldiers passed,"
she recalled. "Each one that passed saluted the flag
and gave a rebel yell...I didn't let the flag fall!"